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The Olympic Live Stream: Observations, Recommendations, Predictions 82

Posted by timothy
from the hey-guys-not-enough-ads dept.
lpress writes "The Tour de France and the Olympics were live streamed on the Web. The BBC streamed 2,500 hours of live coverage of the Olympics and NBC streamed the entire Tour de France and 302 events from all 32 Olympic sports. I watched both events as a fan and as an observer of the online content and the network performance. I blogged detailed descriptions of my experience and summarized it in 12 observations and recommendations. The summary concludes with predictions about the way live events will be covered in the future — coverage of these events was an early step in a major shakeup of the way live events are produced, distributed and viewed."
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The Olympic Live Stream: Observations, Recommendations, Predictions

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I found NBC's coverage to be pretty awesome. I didn't have to watch regionally-popular sports that aren't interesting to me (an American), and basically got to watch America soundly defeat the world in the medal race.

    America! Fuck Yeah!

    • 2 *billion* people worldwide watched Usain Bolt win the Mens 100m gold medal live. But none of them did it via an American TV network.

    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      I wanted to watch a broadcast channel's live streaming on the web.

      They required that I have a mid-tier cable subscription or they wouldn't stream to me.

      So I didn't watch the Olympics on the Internet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2012 @07:30PM (#41031411)

    I wanted to stream part of the Olympics, but NBC wouldn't take my money! They demanded that I pay Comcast $65 or more to have "free" access to the streaming. I am a comcast subscriber, but not at that level.

    They wouldn't let me pay to stream ... so I found .... "other alternatives."

    Damn you NBC! Offer a way to pay $10-$20 to stream the content for non-cable subscribers - please.

    BTW, Calling Comcast on Monday to completely drop CATV service. OTA/ATSC provides more channels here than the $30/month plan.

    • Well here in Germany everyone who owns a TV has to pay around 17€ per month to fund a consortium of public-service broadcasters. They provide regional programs, news and sometimes cover sports events like soccer or tennis. Normally everyone bitches about it, but during the Olympics it was definitely worth it.

      Apart from the normal TV program, which covered the more famous types of sports (tennis, swimming, etc.), you could watch each and every event via livestream in reasonable quality on their websit

      • by Anonymous Coward

        NBC had Universal Sports, US, which was both a broadcast TV station and web site. It carried the less popular sports like soccer, bicycle racing, and hundreds of others - these barely get any airplay in the states.

        There was some FCC ruling when Comcast bought NBC that forced NBC to take Universal Sports off broadcast TV and make it a pay only channel on cable and satellite systems. No more broadcast. The US website started working like the OP NBC login for the Olympics - tell us your cable userid/password

        • Wow, those rates sound insanely high. Then again, here you also have to pay ca. 18€ per month just for the cable connection, which then gets you all the channels you can watch via a satellite dish (a one time investment). Those are the aforementioned public broadcast channels, plus a range of private channels, which are financed by commercials. The public channels broadcast in FullHD, but to watch the private channels in a better quality you have to pay around 70€ per year.

          There are also some ca

      • by umghhh (965931)
        nnot sure when did you watch your streams or what sports you like but German TV did (from my perspective) the same crap as always on air and their streaming sucked big time. So what was on air was a big show of doped athletes - in fact I had impression any time I turn it on it is either heavy weights lifting or swimming and such. Their streaming was crap and besides opening ceremony and one basketball game I never managed to see anything in most of the cases I got empty page saying 'try later' or some such
      • by lpress (707742)

        Well here in Germany everyone who owns a TV has to pay around 17€ per month to fund a consortium of public-service broadcasters.

        That sounds like the British license fee of £145.50 per year for a color TV and £49.00 for a black and white TV. We have no such fees in the US, but the cheapest cable subscription would be more than 17€ per month.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>cheapest U.S. cable subscription would be more than 17â per month.

          Yeah but that's for cable. Germany and British viewers have to pay the 17 euro per month (or £145.50 per year) and still don't have cable. Just whatever they pick up by antenna.

          Our antenna TV is free.

    • Pretty much my experience. "Oh, awesome NBC has the olypmics"

      Go to the olympic streaming page.

      "So what cable provider do you have that you can sign in through".

      Well none. No olympics for me. Even though NBC is OTA. Hell put 1/3 of the screen with ads, just let me watch the damn stuff life.

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        Well none. No olympics for me. Even though NBC is OTA. Hell put 1/3 of the screen with ads, just let me watch the damn stuff life.

        Despite NBC being "OTA", they aired Olympics on far more than just the OTA channels. Most days, they had 8-12 hour blocks of programming on *several* cable channels.

        (I admit I mostly watched the 'main' NBC prime time coverage this time, but in the past, I have watched coverage on some of the other channels on which they aired events.)

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday August 17, 2012 @08:45PM (#41031985)
      I paid $10 to watch the games. To a VPN provider who had servers in the UK, so I watched it on BBC. Beforehand, yeah, I would have paid $10 for access. After seeing how the BBC covered the games though, and hearing how NBC covered them, I don't think I would give NBC money for their chattering over future olympic games.
      • Not to mention tape-delaying major live events like the opening and closing ceremonies.

        It wasn't just the "time difference"; in Vancouver 2010 (Pacific time zone), they still tape-delayed at least the opening ceremonies for Americans on the west coast.

        Their viewership numbers were still through the roof in both Vancouver and London, but that's clearly more a case of captive audience than a working strategy. Those who VPNed to the UK to stream British coverage were a direct loss in eyeball-to-advertising met

    • by lpress (707742)
      I bet NBC would have gone for it -- more people seeing their ads -- but the satellite and cable companies, including their parent company Comcast, probably forced them to do it. Based on the $29 they charged for the Tour de France, I doubt that your $10-20 would be enough.
  • Both the content producers and the networkers will have learned a lot from past experience and will do a much better job than they did this year. We have even seen improvement during these Olympics.

    I was going to go in for: the Olympics, and by extension their television coverage, are going to become ever-more-commercialized bullshit that will eventually become completely unwatchable. But perhaps this alternate vision will come true instead.

    • by kwerle (39371)

      ...

      I was going to go in for: the Olympics, and by extension their television coverage, are going to become ever-more-commercialized bullshit that will eventually become completely unwatchable. But perhaps this alternate vision will come true instead.

      Don't you find predicting the present to be boring?

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      This.

      Every time I have tried to watch sports in the last decade all I hear and see is stupid fucking crap like:

      - Let's see the replay on the Pizza Hut Replay Cam
      - Brought to you buy BlahBlahBlah
      - Check out our awesome display screen with real time stats that needs a brand name in front of everything
      - It's not Football anymore. It's Chase Superbowl. (Like Chase had anything to fucking do with Football other than being the highest bidder)
      - The entire field having advertisements plastered all over it, and no

  • Online streaming will put more pressure on tool sources to provide functional tools.

    I tried viewing the streaming (and recorded) coverage using both Windows and Linux versions of Firefox and both exhibited a memory leak of some kind that made them fail miserably after about ten minutes.

  • I gave up watching sports events years ago. Or I should say, I gave up watching commercials interspersed with an occasional clips of sports years ago.
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Friday August 17, 2012 @07:46PM (#41031537)

    Live coverage of 100 mile cycling events is tough logistics.

    The cameraman rides on the back of a motorcycle. The signal beams from his camera to a hovering helicopter, and then to a satellite.

    It's very impressive that they can get and maintain quality streams under these circumstances. Well trained people and excellent equipment all around.

    The 60+ mph downhill runs must also be a crazy experience for the motorcycle driver, with a passenger on the back.

    • I suspect that it's a lot easier to do with licensed spectrum than over unlicensed bands. That's got to be part of their success...
    • by thesupraman (179040) on Friday August 17, 2012 @08:04PM (#41031651)

      Yes, and unfortunately Larry Press does not seem to understand much about how this is done.

      NBC does NOT produce the TdF coverage, it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many
      broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it. NBC has a couple
      of roving reporters doing non-live content, and one or two live cameras at the finish on a good day.

      The olympics is the same, the event is primarily producted by a host broadcaster, and the public broadcasters
      take that production, add their own flavour, and broadcast that.

      As to his idea that they have 'deleted their archive', that is somewhat laughable - removing it from public access
      is very very different from deleting it, something I can assure him has not happened. They are not required
      ot provide endless public access to such things.

      He seems to think he understands much more about television and large event production than he really does.

      The internet streaming is a very very small part of the whole process, although of course an increasingly important
      small part.

      I find it especially laughable when he claims "NBC did their best to control leaks of Olympic material. For example,
      WiFi hotspots were not allowed in the stands and they did their best to stop social media leaks. "
      Does he really think the NBS was responsible the Olympics venue planning and operation?

      • by lpress (707742)

        it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it

        I meant "produced" in the sense that they contract for the feed then do with it what they will -- add commentary, decide when to cut to commercials, whatever -- the stuff I talked about in the post. The "producer" of a movie does not operate the camera. You sound like a grammar-Nazi kind of person.

        As to his idea that they have 'deleted their archive', that is somewhat laughable - removing it from public access is very very different from deleting it, something I can assure him has not happened.

        Duh.

        The internet streaming is a very very small part of the whole process

        Let's revisit that statement in 2020.

        Does he really think the NBS was responsible the Olympics venue planning and operation?

        I'll give you that one -- I misspoke.

        • by ibennetch (521581)

          it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it

          I meant "produced" in the sense that they contract for the feed then do with it what they will -- add commentary, decide when to cut to commercials, whatever -- the stuff I talked about in the post. The "producer" of a movie does not operate the camera. You sound like a grammar-Nazi kind of person.

          No, sorry, you instead just sound ignorant. Movies and TV are very different and some of the terms, while sounding similar, mean very different things. Before writing a blog post about your analysis and submitting it to slashdot, it would do you well to learn a bit about what you're discussing.

          Along those lines, in the blog post you wrote:

          and the Internatinal (sic) Olympic Committee might decide that it can do a better job than NBC or another production company.

          Your position might be strengthened by learning about how Olympic coverage actually works. I'd start by learning about the OBS, the host broadcaster for all Olympic games.

          • by lpress (707742)

            it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it

            (sic)

            (I feel like the slashdot community's changed a lot since I first joined and HEY, GIVE OFF MY LAWN!)

            (sic) I am not interested in keeping this up -- sorry for pissing on your lawn -- I'll give off now.

            • by ibennetch (521581)

              (I feel like the slashdot community's changed a lot since I first joined and HEY, GIVE OFF MY LAWN!)

              (sic)

              I am not interested in keeping this up -- sorry for pissing on your lawn -- I'll give off now.

              Wow, way to take my quote completely out of context. I meant the exact opposite of what you imply here -- if you look at the quote in context I clearly said nothing negative about your comments with regards to the "get off my lawn" comment. Rather the opposite, that your post started a discussion that I find interesting for once.

              Also, I think it's poor form to submit something to slashdot then get offended at the discussion. You don't need to continue on with me specifically, but I haven't seen a thread her

              • by lpress (707742)
                I gave up because your comments and pedantic "sic"s seemed more ad hominem than constructive, so I just figured I'd sign off with a few "sic"s of my own.
        • it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it

          I meant "produced" in the sense that they contract for the feed then do with it what they will -- add commentary, decide when to cut to commercials, whatever -- the stuff I talked about in the post. The "producer" of a movie does not operate the camera. You sound like a grammar-Nazi kind of person.

          No, you didnt, it is clear from your completely incorrect article that you thought they had actual production input, either that or you know next to nothing about the subject matter you discuss, it could well be either.

          As to his idea that they have 'deleted their archive', that is somewhat laughable - removing it from public access
          is very very different from deleting it, something I can assure him has not happened.

          Duh.

          Again, that was your clear implication in your 'article', you obviously dont have a clue, I wonder why you consider yourself knowledgeable enough to even create such articles?

          The internet streaming is a very very small part of the whole process

          Let's revisit that statement in 2020.

          At which point it will still be a small part of the PROCESS, idiot. internet streaming involves a fast internet connection, a bunch of stream cache servers, and an encoder. For the Tdf and Olympics there is also a very small bit of non-live post production especially for the streams. It will remain a small part of the process, you seem to have confused the process with the viewing method..

          Does he really think the NBS was responsible the Olympics venue planning and operation?

          I'll give you that one -- I misspoke.

          To say the least.

          And then you turned around here and made yourself look like a complete ass, which is unfortunate.

      • NBC does NOT produce the TdF coverage, it is producted by the French, and NBC is one of many many
        broadcasters present there who add a bit of their own flavour to that coverage and use it. NBC has a couple
        of roving reporters doing non-live content, and one or two live cameras at the finish on a good day.

        The olympics is the same, the event is primarily produced by a host broadcaster, and the public broadcasters
        take that production, add their own flavour, and broadcast that.

        If I'm correct the host broadcaster tasked by OBS for the road races was a Dutch broadcaster.

        OBS was a right shambles from what I have heard from my peers who work in the broadcast industry. Danny Boyle was not allowed to use skilled crew or use shots he want for the opening ceremony and had to use sports camera operators, which ended up delaying the rehearsals. British crew walked out on a few occasions because OBS were incompetent. Crews and production were working to rule because they found junior crews

    • by sl149q (1537343)

      Yes but it's not like this was not an unforeseeable problem... or that no one else has solved this problem ... or if those other people had been hired to do the job the coverage wouldn't have been first rate.

      Unfortunately an inexperienced broadcaster was hired to do a job they had no experience in broadcasting. The results where terrible.

    • They also used LiveU units. They were pretty much a total failure, delay of over 8 seconds, poor quality and no QoS so when they went through crowds and everyone started uploading photos to facebook and twiter they lost connection (same problem as the GPS units on the bikes).

    • by lpress (707742)

      Given all that complexity, the raw feed is surprisingly glitch free -- there were hardly any break-ups during the TdF -- but the video quality of NBC's Olympic stream on the Web was pretty bad. There is a lot of room for improvement in the network.

      For the TdF production, NBC pay-per-view took the live feed from French TV and added intelligent, well coordinated commentary, producing an informative, entertaining presentation. Contrast that with the Olympics where they streamed the feed without commentary

  • by Ashe Tyrael (697937) on Friday August 17, 2012 @07:53PM (#41031569)

    Being a license fee payer, this years olympic coverage from the BBC was actually good enough for me to consider the license fee to be 100% justified. The lack of ads alone was awesome.

    The debate about the license fee tends to rage back and forth on a regular basis over here. We genuinely do get a metric ton of generally good quality tv, ad-free and with free streaming. And a lot of tat too. Although it's interesting to note that the UK really came late to the Pay-per-view party. Convincing people that paid a license fee/monthly fee for their cable or sat package that they have to pay again? The main selling points they used over here were the "when you want" nature of the beast, for movies and such, and for sporting events, likening it to buying a ticket. They worked very hard not to remind people that you'd already paid them for the priviledge.

    Guess I'll always sneakily love the BBC as being one of the last holdouts against the paywalling of culture, or the slow posioning of it by 1000 ads for things I never knew I could be irritated by.

    • by pmc (40532)

      In the UK there are a few ways of getting the broadcasts: OTA (aka Freeview), Sky (commercial Sat), FreeSat, Cable, and internet streaming. We've got Freesat, and there were 25 additional HD channels (taking the number of Olympic HD channels up to about 27). All free. It was an embarrassment of riches. Bit of a gap in the fencing - lets to to live weightlifting, via the beach volleyball.

      For example the opening ceremony you could have
      1) Normal with commentary
      2) Without commentary
      3) Captioned commentary for t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2012 @08:08PM (#41031689)

    The Olympics should either have their own coverage and stream that and let me pay them to stream it for the 2 weeks,
    Or whoever pays them for distribution rights should do this.
    I'm not going to waste my time trying to get streaming working at a reasonable rate through a proxy,
    and neither am I going to pay a company that doesn't provide service in my area just to watch 2 weeks of Olympics.

    There was of course local coverage, but they only really covered the events that we had contestants in.
    It also wasn't live streaming, so I could just as easily get it from the piratebay with better coverage.

    • The Olympic committee almost priced themselves out of the Canadian market for broadcasting the 2014 and 2016 games. The biggest private broadcaster declined to broadcast the games after they said the IOC was charging too much. Then the publicly own broadcaster CBC stepped in and bought the rights. There are some mixed public reactions as to whether they are wasting public money since some people think they are not expected to make all the money back. On the other hand, a lot of people are likely cheering be

  • I live in Hawaii and am an avid cyclist and love to follow Le Tour. A typical TdF stage beings in the middle of my night and ends just as I get up. To watch an entire stage every day (21 stages) would consume too much of my time, at any time. I record the long (3 hrs) NBC show daily on my TiVo and watch that when I get home after work. Sometimes I just watch the shorter highlights show, which has more sidebars.

    In general, while more live coverage is a good thing, content providers should continue to develop time shifting options (see also Hulu - TV) and offer insightful commentary and back story items.

  • by rklrkl (554527) on Friday August 17, 2012 @08:42PM (#41031971) Homepage

    I set up two high spec PCs to record [blogspot.co.uk] the entire Olympics from 24 HD satellite channels (and some terrestrial SD/HD channels too). No need for a Net connection and I have 15TB of recordings to sift through (edits, deletes etc) at my leisure. It should be noted that the HD TV broadcasts were around 10-11 Mbits/sec, which is approximately twice the rate of the HD Net streams the BBC have up on their site.

    The 24 satellite/cable HD channels (free apart from the TV licence fee of course - and no ads!) were by far the best thing w.r.t. the BBC broadcasts, IMHO. I could list quite a few annoyances with the terrestrial coverage ranging from ludicrous studio yabbering whilst actual live sports were visibly/audibly going on behind the presenters (cycling, swimming and athletics were the worst offenders), failure to air Jason Kenny's cycling gold medal win and medal ceremony on terrestrial HD and a surprisingly weak Olympics Tonight highlights show that often failed to air sub-5-minute events in full (colorised, edited out, blaring background music and hardly any of the original comms).

    I think what worries me about Rio 2016 is that the UK won't see the equivalent of the 24 HD channels from the BBC again (hopefully via both satellite and cable like London 2012). It might mean that London 2012 will remain the largest TV event in the UK for quite some time to come.

  • Streaming video needs a switch to turn off the vapid commentary.

  • by michael_cain (66650) on Friday August 17, 2012 @10:37PM (#41032755) Journal
    The Comcast cable service my wife has us subscribe to for other content gave me access, so can't fuss about that. The NBC site prompted me for my cable provider the first time I tried to view a stream, and apparently got all the info they needed from my IP address. After the first access everything was transparent. The listing of when the live streaming of the (fencing) events I was interested in was accurate. Streams started promptly and played smoothly. Even for modest sized content (480p rather than high-def), decoding was compute-intensive, requiring the cycles from about 1.5 of the two processor cores on my Mac. That seemed excessive.

    I'm a sport fencer. Epee if it matters. I wanted to watch the later rounds of the various epee events -- men's individual, women's individual, women's team. No men's team epee event at the Olympics this year, as the IOC has limited the number of fencing gold medals that can be won. None of the epee events were on US television, only available by streaming. Every minute of all the events were available, at least on replay. Except for one, the live events were either too early, or conflicted with the rest of my life. What was available in replay was the nearly raw video feed from the venue. The action, then a quick slow-motion replay of each touch. The director(s) obviously knew something about the sport, since the slow motion was generally the correct one of the two or three options for camera angle. Audio was the microphone for the referee of the bout being shown, plus ambient noise from the venue (including the PA). No announcer. No color analyst. No commercials. When the Koreans appealed the referee's decision and there was an hour of dead time from the venue, every minute of the dead time was included in the stream. As an aside for those who saw pictures of the Korean woman sitting on the strip, it wasn't a "protest" -- international fencing rules require the fencer to stay at the strip until the appeal is settled.

    For an epeeist, that's really terrific coverage. I know what I'm looking for, and the announcer/color commentary are just a distraction. For a non-fencer, it must have been terrible.
    • For an epeeist, that's really terrific coverage. I know what I'm looking for, and the announcer/color commentary are just a distraction. For a non-fencer, it must have been terrible.

      As a non-fencer, I actually found the epee much easier to follow than the other events (mainly because there was no need to worry about right of way). The other events were enjoyable to watch, but I did a lot of taking the scoring on faith/outright ignoring the scoring and just watching the fencing.

  • Are you sure it was 15 megabits? That's better than most HD TV broadcasts, f it was H.264. it would give most CPUs a serious workout.

    • by lpress (707742)
      That is the download speed test from my house (as reported by Seedtest.net) -- so it was not a constraint. I got around 2.3 Mb/s when going through an English proxy.
  • The first week, about 80% of my Olympics viewing was through the streaming. Not only was it live, but I got to watch events that would never get covered (or get more than 10 minutes of tv time several hours later). And I do applaud NBC for streaming every single event live. At least they got something right.

    I usually preferred watching without commentary. It was nice not getting my ear talked off the whole time. It was also very nice that commentary could be turned off (and back on when I did want it)

  • I saw almost all of my olympics on this site, http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/london2012/ [eurovisionsports.tv] (obviously not really active now)

    Not the greatest quality, but it was legal, and free, and you simply got the basic feed that Eurovision sent to TV channels around the world, so no commentators or anything, it was just pure Olympics, and you could watch an event from start to finish if you'd like.

    I would gladly have paid good money for an HD version, but it was simply not possible to pay for better service.

    I hope that R

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